SERIOUS ABOUT JOKES: He ditched his engineering job at MTN Uganda to concentrate on making people laugh. Four years later, comedian Patrick Idringi aka Salvado is a household name. He will hold his debut one man show dubbed ‘The man from Ombokolo’ on Tuesday. He tells Darius Mugisha about the show, being away from his girlfriend and what the future holds for Ugandan comedy.
You call yourself Man from Ombokolo. Is it a real place or it’s an imaginary place?
Ombokolo is a real place located near the border of Uganda and Congo in West Nile.
Did you grow up in Ombokolo?
I was born and raised in Kampala. But we always pass by Ombokolo when going to my mother’s village in Congo, so I have actually been to Ombokolo.
How did you come up with the One Man Show idea?
The idea came up when I performed at the Apollo in London, I closed the show and my super performance got people rating me highly. Even guys from Comedy Central came to me and told me they had been tracking me for some time and they wanted my DVD. But I didn’t have a DVD, because I had never had a One Man Show. So from that day, my focus has entirely been on doing my first One Man Show.
A lot of things have been written about the comedy fraternity in Uganda; from repeating jokes, to using viral jokes off social media, what do you think about the industry?
I don’t like comparing comedy with music, but it’s the best example I can use for now. A musician will sing a song, and the more people listen to it, the more they will fall in love with it. But comedy is different, once someone has heard a joke, they don’t want to hear it again. So it’s very challenging; you need to come out with new material every time. And for the case of our country, motivation is another challenge for comedians. Nigerians, South Africans and Ghanaians are paid $10,000 (about Shs 29m) for every 45 minutes performance, but in Uganda people want to pay you Shs200,000 for a whole night. I shall partly blame that on us comedians, for failure to unite and set standards. When I refuse to perform at a function for Shs 300,000, someone else will do it at Shs200,000 and they will do a good job.
What happened to your group The Crackers. You no longer hold weekly shows at Theatre La Bonita?
The Crackers still exists as a company. But we are now into organising big shows like Africa Laughs and Man from Ombokolo. We realised the weekly shows were too expensive. When we started doing well, the theatre started increasing their fees, so it became hard and stressful. So we decided to channel our energies towards doing bigger events. But we recently partnered with Laftaz Comedy Lounge and we do the weekly Jazz Comedy show. It’s a blend of Jazz music and comedy, it’s something we want to grow now.
Talking about Laftaz, it is owned by the people you parted ways with some years back when they left the Crackers, should we call this maturity or you just came together for a cause?
We all let our egos down. We realised whatever was causing us problems was way smaller than the goal of growing comedy and making a living. So we realised the reasons for our differences were not worth losing a friendship. And yes, it’s called maturity, because our industry is very small, almost all comedians are in the same circle, so if you beef with each other, you are losing out.
You have been to places, what do you think you do right and other comedians don’t?
I apply a very simple principle in this business; every single show I do, I do it like it’s my first and last. I will not say let me reserve my jokes for the next show, I give them my best. So I think it’s about how you sell yourself, how you make contacts and how you use them. And the best of all is humility; it takes you places. But the most important thing is to be funny, no comedian should ever forget that.
Does your busy schedule have everything to do with your UK-based management- Grajoh International?
I had several gigs across the world even before I signed with Grajoh. The reason I signed with Grajoh was because I needed the European market but I didn’t know how to go about it. So I got them to strictly handle my European gigs and oh boy, they are doing a great job. In West Africa, I am represented by Maggie Petersons, Basket Mouth’s agency, in South Africa, I am represented by Podium. I know the market in East Africa, so I handle my gigs in this region. Grajoh has helped me establish a base in Europe.
We heard Basket Mouth is returning for your show. We also read a post where you thanked him for filling your first passport booklet with the numerous gigs he got you. What’s your relationship with him?
We are now more like brothers. I have supported him in so many ways, he has made money off me, but I cannot complain – because everything I earn from his gigs is what I am willing to get. And every time he has called me, I have never disappointed. My brother Eric Omondi from Kenya disappointed him and their relationship is not that good anymore, even when he is really funny. We understand and respect each other and each other’s art- that’s why I always close Basket’s shows; he knows my impact, no matter how big the show is, wherever it is, I am the last comedian on stage. And you can tell when someone knows and respects you by the way they introduce you on stage; they give a little background and then describe you in their own words – he has done that a lot and his words always touch my heart!
Have you tried to link other comedians to him?
Yes of course! But like I said it all comes down to humility. I mean he has been to Kampala many times, but comedians don’t even want to say hi to him – yet he has never chased away anyone! So it’s all up to someone. Chance knocks once, so I can’t speak for anyone, I might say so much and someone disappoints, that’s on my credibility. I would expect comedians to come out and meet Basket Mouth and sell themselves. Yes he is proud, but when he hears the word comedian, he gives you audience. I’ll give you a clear example, Cotilda met Basket Mouth before I did. When we went to Nigeria, I never met him but I just got his number and started chatting with him, I did that for a very longtime before we actually met.
Let’s talk returns; what have you achieved from the business so far?
I am not complaining, at least I have achieved a few things. I’m able to put food on the table, I’m able to take care of my family, I’m able to have a good time with my friends, so let’s say I’m happy and okay. I’m not yet where I want to be, but God willing, I will be there soon.
Don’t you think you would have achieved a lot more as a practicing engineer?
Definitely not. When I resigned in 2011, I was tired and I felt I had had enough. But I only had Shs200,000 on my account. So I wondered how I was going to survive. I had a loan I was servicing, I had bills, but I decided to follow my conviction, I was sure things were going to work out if I gave it my all. That very weekend, I got two jobs; first one, was a performance, and I told the person on the other end of the line that I would only do it for Shs1m and they accepted. The second one was an emceeing job, I told the caller it would cost Shs1.5m. I was pulling his leg, but he also accepted. I sat and asked myself what had taken me so long. I had just almost doubled my salary for 30 days at MTN, in just two days. I never looked back. What I achieved in MTN is just a quarter of what I have achieved in comedy in three years.
We have read many things about you and your girlfriend Daphne’s relationship having a rough patch, what exactly is happening?
There’s nothing much happening between us. I needed time to concentrate on this show because its gonna set the bar for me. On the other hand, she is also doing exams at Mubs and she needed to concentrate, so we greed she stays with her mum for this time, because even our daughter is safer there when both of us are busy. But even then, you know how relationships are; sometimes you are very happy and other times you are not. So different people have different ways of keeping happiness in their relationships; this has worked for us before and we were sure it will work this time round. And after the show, she will come back- there is nothing like bad blood or fights.
Have you thought about making it official- like putting a ring on it?
Of course I have, but I am not doing it now; why rush? I am giving it time, but it will happen. Right now, I am concentrating on building my career until I get to a situation where I am comfortable whether I have gigs or not. I want to do something very nice for my sweetheart, but I don’t want to get bank loans to do it.
So many celebrities are complaining about false stories in tabloids, but none is making a legal move, don’t you think instead of complaining and trading insults with tabloids, it would be best for celebrities to take legal action?
For starters, just like insurance, Ugandans are not well-versed with legal issues. So it’s very hard to even think about it; all we know is ‘you abuse me, I abuse you back’ and it goes on and on. We don’t know about defamation, yet it’s a big case. It can cause physical, emotional or economic harm, depending on its extent. Personally, I’m just waiting for a tabloid to mess up and write anything defamatory about my family and I shall walk the legal distance. But I urge all celebrities to take it upon themselves and learn the law, so that we can be able to preserve our images and dignity of our nation.
Is there any other funny person from your family?
My parents are funny. My father is bold while my mum is witty. But I think my late big brother Alex Adiga was the funniest individual in our family. People think I am funny, but that guy was too hilarious. But my entire family is full of funny people; if anyone attended a family gathering and filmed it, it would be deadly.
Who is your best comedian in Uganda?
First of all, there are these legends; Pablo and Amooti- those will always be up there in my rankings. But I hate to categorise them amongst us, they are in their own league. So many comedians tickle me and make me feel Uganda is on the right track; Prince Emma, Daniel Omara, Mc Kapale, Ronnie Mcvex, Cotilda, and of course my brother Alex Muhangi. Anne Kansiime is also in her own league now. I am a huge fan of comedy and there is a lot of new talent. And in a few years this industry is going to be one of the most respected.
You’ve acted in a few movies/ soaps, do we see you growing this talent as well?
I love acting, but it’s the most time consuming and focus oriented industry. You need to be focused, you need time to do it. I just couldn’t juggle it with comedy. The makers of Beneath the Lies were very professional but I twisted them to the point that they had to postpone filming because I was out of the country for a gig- that’s not how it’s supposed to be. But when the time is right, I will definitely go into acting.
The One Man show
What exactly is going to happen at the One Man Show. How different is it from all the shows you have done?
A one man show is where you get to give the fans your all and later release a DVD. It’s a compilation of all the jokes you want to stop doing. So this show is going to be a full package of Salvado, I want the fans to get to know my story- that’s why I called it The Man from Ombokolo. I’m going to be on stage for almost two hours. I will be supported by Janzi band, Myco Ouma and Big Size Bebe Cool. I will not have any comedian curtain raisers, just musicians.
How do you think this show is going to help the comedy industry in Uganda grow?
The answer is simple; the content I use at the One man show is meant to sell me throughout the year; meaning if I did one man show every year, I would never repeat all the jokes on the DVD at a live show-especially in Uganda. It motivates one to work harder! I will repeat a few jokes I have done before on this show because I would like them to appear on my debut DVD. But 70 per cent of the content is new stuff.
What’s your message to your fans out there?
You believed in me from day one, and I don’t think you are going to stop because I am yet to exploit my full potential; I still have a lot to offer. Just hang in there with me. Thank you so much, especially the people that are promoting my show on social media and in all forms. All I request of you is to show me some love and attend in person on Tuesday June 2 at the Kampala Serena Hotel- Victoria hall. Entry is just 50k and 100k for VIP. May the good Lord bless you all.